Monday, 4 January 2021
And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace. So the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit. Revelation 9:2
This verse is in response to the actions of the previous verse where the “star fallen from heaven to earth” was given the key to the bottomless pit. It now says, “And he opened the bottomless pit.” As noted in the previous verse, stars in the sky don’t get keys and open pits. But this one does, indicating that the words are to be taken in a metaphorical way. The star is speaking of a being that had fallen from heaven and is now given authority to take a specific action – that of opening the pit of the abyss.
Here we see that the ninth chapter of Revelation corresponds to the ninth letter of the Hebrew aleph-bet. The ninth letter, teth, pictures a basket, and it signifies “surround,” “contain,” and “mud.” In this chapter is found the bottomless pit that contains the great army of locusts.
If the pit of the abyss is where demons are located, then demonic forces can be expected to be released. One must then decide if these are literally coming to do what is stated in the verses ahead. Or are these things to be seen reflective of other things – such as fallen people who are on the side of the devil. In other words, Nazi Germany had a leader who was certainly demonically influenced. His people, then, could be equated with those who are demonically led. Thus, they would be as if they had come out of the bottomless pit.
The question is, “How literal are the verses to be taken, or how allegorical are they to be taken?” As the events are future, only best guesses can be made. Regardless of that for now, with the opening of the pit, John next says, “and smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace.” The words are reminiscent of Genesis 19:27, 28 –
“And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord. 28 Then he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain; and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace.”
This signified judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah had taken place. Another note with a similar tone is found in Exodus 19:18 –
“Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly.”
The symbolism there, at the giving of the Law of Moses, is that of the Lord’s holiness, terror of not meeting it, and both wrath and judgment when failure to meet it occurs. The law was given to show the people of the world their desperate need for God’s grace, as is found in Jesus Christ. The world has rejected that, and thus, the analogy here is that of impending doom.
The very word used to describe the furnace in the Old Testament verses gives a clue to what is being pictured. In Hebrew, the word is kibshan, a kiln. However, that is derived from the verb kabash, meaning to subdue, or to bring into bondage. One can see that the giving of the law actually brought people into bondage – not freedom (something spoken of by Jesus, Peter, and Paul). The people have rejected Christ’s freedom, they have remained apart from Him, and the terror and wrath of God will be poured out on them because of this.
Although this is getting ahead of things, something needs to be stated now because the “furnace” terminology is presented at this time. A concept that has been addressed, and that should be addressed again now, concerns what the scope of what is being presented here is. Are the verses speaking of judgment against Israel only, or against the Mideast, or against the whole world?
Daniel 9 clearly indicates that Israel is given seven more years under the Law of Moses. Because only Israel was given the law, it is quite possible that these judgments are coming solely against Israel. Thus, the vast multitudes mentioned in the coming verses are coming against them as God’s instruments of judgment (such as was the case with the Assyrians and Babylonians as is specifically mentioned in the Old Testament).
For now, the words of John continue with, “So the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit.” This can either be symbolic, literal, or both. If symbolic, it is reflective of the judgment on Israel for their wickedness literally permeating the heavens. Or it could be literal as war ensues in the land and the air is filled with the smoke of battle. Or the spiritual could be worked out in the physical – meaning both are the case.
There is already a precedent for the events now recorded, and that will be recorded in the verses ahead. In fact, it is an astonishingly similar pattern – that of the Gulf War. During that war, the oil fields of Kuwait were set on fire, and the entire area was literally shrouded in darkness as the battles ensued. A spiritual darkness also covered the area as the forces engaged in battle. More parallels to this war, which perhaps was given as a precursor to what will happen again in Israel, will be seen in the verses to come.
Life application: As noted, during the first Gulf War, these verses well-resembled what occurred when Saddam Hussein set fire to the oil fields of Kuwait. His actions, although physical in nature and caused by humans, were certainly influenced by evil spiritual forces. Possibly in the future there will be a similar occurrence when armed conflict causes massive and widespread burning that brings about a darkening of the sun and the air.
The tribulation period is given to cleanse the earth of its unrighteousness, but it is more specifically given to accomplish this in Israel. Six points of correction were noted to Daniel concerning Israel’s remaining time under the law, culminating in a final seven-year period –
“Seventy weeks are determined
For your people and for your holy city,
To finish the transgression,
To make an end of sins,
To make reconciliation for iniquity,
To bring in everlasting righteousness,
To seal up vision and prophecy,
And to anoint the Most Holy.” Daniel 9:24
None of these were accomplished in the first four-hundred and eighty-three years. This means those six things are to be accomplished during their final seven-year period. The point of explaining this in the life application section is that Israel, though returned to their land by the Lord, is still not right with the Lord.
They promote self-righteousness, they promote homosexuality, they promote every type of perverse conduct that the rest of the world promotes. And they do it while living under the dispensation of Law. They bear God’s name, Israel, and yet they are far from Him. The purpose of God’s judgments upon them are corrective in nature. And they will be corrected. Someday they will call out to God through Jesus Christ, and they will be saved as a nation. But two-thirds of them will die in the process.
There are two aspects of dealing with Israel that must be considered then. The first is that we are not to jump on the “support Israel at all costs” bandwagon. As a nation, they are immoral and perverse, and their conduct should be called out. And yet, they are God’s chosen people to complete His redemptive purposes for the world through them. Therefore, we are to also support them and pray for them. They need their Messiah. Let us pray for Israel to find their true Messiah. Let us pray for them to find JESUS!
Heavenly Father, You would have Your creatures love You and to love one another, but instead, we revile Your glorious name and we also resolve our conflicts with anger, war, and destruction. We, as believers in Jesus Christ, look forward to the Day when He returns. Someday, these things will no longer occur. We look forward to the Day when righteousness reigns on the earth. Amen.